In China, over 10 million dogs are killed for their meat every year. The dog meat festival in Yulin is just a small part of the issue. The festival started in 2010 and this year it is estimated that 10,000 dogs and cats will be killed in the 10-day event. There are currently no animal welfare laws in China, so animals can be killed in any way a person wants.
Pictures by Alex Hofford Photography
Seeing firsthand the conditions and the suffering of these dogs was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced. The slaughterhouse we went to had over 300 dogs kept in the same area, living in their own excrement. All that separated the living dogs and the area where the unfortunate ones where killed, was a wire fence. Some dogs were motionless, too weak to move and just stared into space like they had given up on life. What I found extremely hard was when a few dogs came up to me with their tails wagging, eager for affection. Amidst all this suffering caused by my fellow humans, they still showed us love and trust, which broke my heart. Lots of dogs still had collars on them, showing that they had been stolen from loving homes. Two puppies had been born just a few hours before we had arrived. We didn’t know if they would survive the journey to the shelter, but luckily they did.
We went to collect some dogs from a field at 3 o’clock in the morning, where more than 500 dogs were crammed into tiny wire cages. Seven to ten dogs were crammed into one cage alone. A few of the dogs had given birth, but sadly the puppies had died before we could help them. To be able to get them out of the cages and give them much needed water at the shelter was an amazing and emotional moment. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the smell of the slaughterhouse and the whimpers of hundreds of suffering dogs.
It wasn’t until last year when I went to the incredible Soi Dog shelter in Thailand that I really learned about the dog meat trade and what happens to dogs all over Asia. To most of us living in the West, it is easy for us to judge other countries and what they eat without looking at the suffering we are causing in our own homes. If you want to stop this cruelty from happening to dogs, that’s truly great, but all I ask is that you widen your circle of compassion to include all animals. There needs to be a global shift of consciousness, not only for the animals but for the future of the planet. You might not think that you are part of the problem but if you are contributing to the worldwide holocaust of beautiful, innocent animals, then how can you not be? The exploitation of ALL animals is wrong and won’t stop until we stop paying for it to happen.
It is indeed hypocritical for us to be angry at others when we are guilty of causing the same atrocities. How can we be angry at people in Taji who kill dolphins whilst we visit places like Sea World? How can we be angry at countries in Asia for eating shark fin when we eat fish? How can we get mad at others who wear fur, when we walk around wearing leather, wool or angora? The recent uproar of people being mad at a gorilla being shot cannot be justified when we put that poor animal there is the first place. I know that this awful festival in Yulin has to stop, and I believe that it will. But as long as people in Western societies continue to eat animals, then so will people in the East.
“When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” – Ingrid Newkirk
We all know that all animals hold the capacity to feel pain and suffering, but we have let society dictate to us which ones we should love, and which ones are okay to kill. Human beings are compassionate by nature. It’s what differentiates us from other animals. We — 99% of the population — are born with compassion and an innate love for animals. As children, if someone wanted to hurt an animal in front of us, we would surely be upset and want to protect that animal.
The only difference is your attitude
Unfortunately along the way, we have become indoctrinated by a sick society that makes profit of enslaving these animals and selling their body parts. It’s an injustice to the animals, and indeed an injustice to ourselves. Most of us believe that animal abuse is wrong, but we are not living in line with our beliefs if we are actually eating animals. If we want a world full of kindness, respect and justice for all, then eating animals goes against everything we stand for.
I Love Animals – Artwork by The Vegan Sidekick
For the pigs that are castrated and have their teeth removed with no painkillers. For the mother sows that spend their whole lives in gestation crates, unable to turn around. For the baby chicks that have their beaks and feet cut off without pain relief. For the male baby chicks who are ground up alive or suffocated to death on the first day they are born. For the female cows who are raped, impregnated, robbed of their babies, and hooked up to painful milking machines. For the male calves who are chained up, unable to move, and are killed for veal. For the animals that are locked up, experimented on, abused and killed for human selfishness. To all of the animals that are suffering right now and their voices that cannot be heard, I am eternally sorry.
Going to Yulin was an unforgettable experience. I met so many amazing people fighting to make the world a better place. Thanks to Marc Ching from the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation for letting me join them and to Jeffrey Beri for setting up an amazing shelter and taking care of the dogs after we left.
As I think about the poor dogs we could not save and the billions of animals all around the world whose voices cannot be heard, I try to remain positive. I think of something Gary Yourofsky once said: ”Injustice won’t last forever.” Animal liberation for all animals will happen. When? No one really knows, but I just hope that it is sooner rather than later for the animals and indeed the planet’s sake. Veganism is not an end to all the problems in the world, it is just the start. And it is the least we can do.